Nature Journal
with Photos

          
Red-shouldered Hawk Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
 
General Information
- Sexes similar
- Short, dark, hooked beak
- Large, fairly long-tailed, broad-winged hawk
- Pale, translucent crescent at base of primaries

Adult
- Brown head
- Reddish breast and underwing coverts
- Pale belly barred heavily with reddish
- Reddish lesser uppersecondary coverts appear as
  reddish shoulder at rest
- Flight feathers dark above with white barring
- Flight feathers pale below with dark barring
- Dark tail has several narrow white bars
- Florida birds (B. l. extimus) are paler about the head
  and have much paler breasts
- California (B. l. elegans) and Texas (B. l. texanus)
  birds are much richer red

Immature
- Pale supercilium
- Brown head, back and upperwing coverts
- Small reddish patch on lesser secondary upperwing
  coverts
- Underwing mostly pale, with faint barring on flight
  feathers
- Dark brown tail with narrow buff bands

Similar species
Young Red-tailed Hawks can resemble young Red-shoulders, but lack the pale crescents in the outer wing and have a quite different shape, being much broader-winged, broader-tailed and often soaring with more of a dihedral.

Adult Broad-winged Hawk is similarly patterned but lacks red shoulders, lacks pale translucent crescents, has black and white bands on tail of even width and a crisp black border to underwing. Immature Broad-winged is quite similar but can be distinguished by the same tail pattern criteria that is useful for adults. In flight note the lack of translucent pale crescents in wings, as well as the quite different shape: Broad-winged Hawks are very broad-winged and short-tailed, while Red-shouldered Hawks have long, narrow wings that flare out at the rear edge and have longer tails.
 
 
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